I quite like Hanna Rosin’s writing and I’ll be watching her give a talk later this year at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas (“FODI”) in Sydney.
Rosin takes a comment, which has been oft repeated (and thus has become a factoid) by a variety of groups including the US President, Mr Obama, and shows how fundamentally it’s not true:
“The point here is not that there is no wage inequality. But by focusing our outrage into a tidy, misleading statistic we’ve missed the actual challenges. It would in fact be much simpler if the problem were rank sexism and all you had to do was enlighten the nation’s bosses or throw the Equal Pay Act at them. But the 91 percent statistic suggests a much more complicated set of problems. Is it that women are choosing lower-paying professions or that our country values women’s professions less? And why do women work fewer hours? Is this all discrimination or, as economist Claudia Goldin likes to say, also a result of “rational choices” women make about how they want to conduct their lives.”
If you want to suggest Rosin’s no feminist, then don’t let me stop you. She is, however, and that’s what makes the above so appealing. Rosin’s approach is to critique issues with an eye to reaching a resolution. Anybody, be they in a feminist paradigm or not, can critique; few can temper it with a call to reasonable arms.
“Goldin and Lawrence Katz have done about as close to an apples-to-apples comparison of men’s and women’s wages as exists. (They talk about it here in a Freakonomics discussion.) They tracked male and female MBAs graduating from the University of Chicago from 1990 to 2006. First they controlled for previous job experience, GPA, chosen profession, business-school course and job title. Right out of school, they found only a tiny differential in salary between men and women, which might be because of a little bit of lingering discrimination or because women are worse at negotiating starting salaries. But 10 to 15 years later, the gap widens to 40 percent, almost all of which is due to career interruptions and fewer hours. The gap is even wider for women business school graduates who marry very high earners. (Note: Never marry a rich man). “
If you haven’t read Freakonomics, I highly advise that you do.
“If this mid-career gap is due to discrimination, it’s much deeper than “male boss looks at female hire and decides she is worth less, and then pats her male colleague on the back and slips him a bonus.” It’s the deeper, more systemic discrimination of inadequate family-leave policies and childcare options, of women defaulting to being the caretakers. Or of women deciding that are suited to be nurses and teachers but not doctors. And in that more complicated discussion, you have to leave room at least for the option of choice—that women just don’t want to work the same way men do.”
I’m not going to claim to have the answer but it’s some compelling food for thought.